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An abandoned house can conjure up stories of past joys as well as hard times.
An abandoned house can conjure up stories of past joys as well as hard times.
Taken near Artesian, SD in Sept. 2011.
Taken near Artesian, SD in Sept. 2011.
The weathered walls of an old house evoke many memories.
The weathered walls of an old house evoke many memories.
Lyman County, Oct. 2011.
Lyman County, Oct. 2011.
Eyesore or piece of history?
Eyesore or piece of history?

Visions of the Past

Oct 31, 2011

Abandoned farmhouses and barns intrigue me.  I realize that a lot of folks see them as eyesores or maybe even negative signs of the times.  I see them as pieces of history.  I imagine stories of the joys of living the country life as well as stories of hard times on the prairie all wrapped into those weathered walls.  When I look at an old, abandoned house I can almost see gathering friends and family chatting on the front step or sitting around the dining room table for a high holiday.  I guess part of it is reliving my childhood on the farm.  My boyhood home is still being lived in, but my grandparents’ house that stood just a mile away is now gone.  I stopped there this summer and walked the old yard I used to mow.  I marked the old foundation and where the garage was.  It was a bittersweet thing to remember the good times there with my grandparents and family.

The old barns, on the other hand, have much different stories to tell.  Stories of daily chores, stories of somehow both loving and hating the farm animals that used the barns.  I know our barn would have a lot of stories to tell. I can think of many incriminating instances concerning my brothers and I that demonstrate the old saying; “boys will be boys.”  Some of the tamer shenanigans would be goofing off with the newborn kittens in the hayloft while our oldest brother milked the last of the cows, hollering at us every couple minutes to get down and help.  There were also epic fights in that barn.  Mostly between my older brothers, but I was in my share as well.  In fact, the only time I ever remember bloodying anybody’s nose in a fight was in that barn — it was a blind swing over my shoulder in a fit of lost temper.  It quickly ended the skirmish, but I think my brother was more surprised than hurt.

I cleaned that barn floor more times than I can count.  The worst was in the winter.  The western side of barn got so cold that the hot water would freeze on the cement almost as soon as we poured it out of the bucket. I had to be quick in order to sweep it down the drain or it would create an ice rink, which was fun to play on, but created havoc for 40 milk cows to cross over.  One winter our drain froze solid and we had to sump pump out the water until June.

It is funny how living those memories didn’t seem like all that much fun at the time.  I realize now how important it was to learn how to work and work hard.  My brothers and I can now laugh at the old barn stories.  Which is a good thing.

All that to say, that when I have time and the light is right, I can’t help but stop and take some photos of old, abandoned buildings found along South Dakota’s country roads and wonder about the stories they could tell.


Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing our prettiest spots around the state. Follow Begeman on his blog


07:50 am - Mon, October 31 2011
I am doing something very similar -- I am photograpjing old and abandoned log homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation and once I'm done here, I hope to go to the Rosebud Reservation.

Would you be interested in posting my pictures in your magazine?

07:58 am - Mon, October 31 2011
Jennifer said:
I, too, stop to photograph abandoned homes. I've thought about making a book of photos with the stories/history of some of the homes. Maybe I'll have time for that when I retire in about 35 years.
08:00 am - Mon, October 31 2011
Chad Coppess said:
Great stories Christian. For all of us photographers' sake, I hope places like this don't disappear too quickly.
08:42 am - Mon, October 31 2011
Thomas Johnston said:
Great story and great photos. I too see old farmhouses and barns as history. One cannot help but wonder what became of the families that owned them. They were once somebody's hopes and dreams. If they could speak, what would they tell. Would they be happy memories or sad?

Thanks to Christian and others who document these monuments before they are gone. Someday, they may be the only tangible piece of someone's ancestors left.
09:06 am - Mon, October 31 2011
Heidi said:
My mom has a photo album full of big red barns. She keep an old disposable camera in her car simply for those moments when she discovers a new one. Some are old and falling down, but some have been re-roofed and straightened. My favorites are the ones that display a colorful barn quilt on the front just above the loft door. Growing up on a farm in NE Nebraska, I think my mom misses her big red barn.
09:06 am - Mon, October 31 2011
Ah, if walls could talk.
Fantastic photos!

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